The difference between ‘targets’ and ‘outcomes’

I’ve mentioned before that a Google search reveals that an “executive coach” has 54 seats and is owned by Wallace Arnold. So I tend to avoid that label. Instead I describe my work as that of a confidant to people whose circumstances give them substantial personal power.

Apart from the title, there are a couple of other distinctions between the work I do and that of those who usually describe themselves as ‘coaches’. Firstly, I come from a very specific form of training – very well established for over a century and known as psychodynamics. I did this after a longer one still in ethology. Ethology looks at the behaviour of animals of all kinds and studies the specifics of this within and across species. Psychodynamics is concerned with the movement of emotional energy within individuals, between individuals, and around groups of people from a small one to a huge community. I don’t use language tricks to manipulate people’s thinking, or place emphasis on which way their head is leaning, or their eyes are directed, at a particular moment. Instead I help them to understand the theoretical basis of what they are doing and help them discover alternatives.

Secondly, the type of client I work with is already highly successful. This means that I do not go over trivia with them. One example would be ‘goal setting’. My clients are all perfectly capable of setting their own goals. We may explore them. We may look at how they will achieve them, or the obstacles to them doing so, but we won’t generally set them.

If you mention a goal to most people in the world of work they will understand what you mean. A few will be a little naive and think that, to be good, all goals have to conform to the model originally proposed by Ken Blanchard and his colleagues and therefore be SMART goals! Of course they don’t – one person’s goal might be like that, but someone else’s might be couched in very different terms. Nevertheless, the letters of the SMART acronym spell out the kinds of variable often encompassed in goal setting;

# Specific
# Measurable
# Achievable
# Realistic
# Timely

Now, a ‘revolution’ in the NHS has been promised by the incoming coalition government. They tell us that this will be achieved by moving the NHS performance measurements from being TARGETS to OUTCOMES.

Let me give you an example of a TARGET…

“It is our aim that patients, who request an appointment with their GP, will be offered one within 48 hours in 90% of cases.”

Let me give you an example of an OUTCOME…

“Within 48 hours of asking for an appointment, 90% of patients will be sitting in front of their GP.”

These are Specific (as they relate to a particular scenario); Measurable (as the time is defined and we can record a simple “Yes” or “No” to say whether they happened); Achievable (on the basis that, for the last five years or more, most GPs have achieved them); Realistic (ditto) and Timely (after all they are important to most patients)!

Now call them a GOAL, a TARGET, or an OUTCOME, or one of a dozen other terms*, they are not really any different. It is just a question of language. So, I shall leave it to you to decide whether this is likely to prompt a revolution in healthcare, or whether it’s just another example of political rhetoric.

*Aaargh! I heard someone say “Key Performance Indicator” or KPI for short!

Best wishes

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